**spoiler alert** I've got to say that I really thought it would be Duncan Quagmire and Violet, and Isadora Quagmire and Klaus. The Quigley thing was...more**spoiler alert** I've got to say that I really thought it would be Duncan Quagmire and Violet, and Isadora Quagmire and Klaus. The Quigley thing was okay with me, as he and Violet were much more immediately and emphatically involved than she was with Duncan, but there were certainly a lot of hand-patting and stuff going on with Duncan and Violet, as well as with Isadora and Klaus. Having read the rest of the series, I was even more surprised by the rapidity of the Klaus/Fiona thing in The Grim Grotto. And in The End, when Kit says that she heard one of the Quagmires call Violet's name, Sunny asks whether it was Duncan or Quigley. Maybe I'm not the only one wondering . . .(less)
**spoiler alert** So, I've now finished rereading Narnia.
This one wasn't as bad as I'd feared in terms of me wanting to noogie my younger self for tot...more**spoiler alert** So, I've now finished rereading Narnia.
This one wasn't as bad as I'd feared in terms of me wanting to noogie my younger self for totally not getting the Christianity thing. Yes, there are some things that jumped out at me now - especially Lucy's comment that there in our world a stable once held something bigger than the whole world - but I can forgive Little Nic for not seeing it. I didn't used to read anything except what was on the page.
The action itself was really pretty good, as was the whole end-of-the-world bit. Sucks to be Jill and Eustace's parents back home, but I guess they'll make it eventually.
That was actually an interesting point for me: everyone is supposed to have died in this railway accident (though the idea that the train actually hit Peter et al. is pretty crazy - they were out on the platform, right?), yet Jill and Eustace go to Narnia instead of straight to inside the stable. You could interpret this as Aslan choosing where to put them, but it seems like if they were dead in England, they'd be dead in Narnia, and go straight to the post-Narnia super-Narnia where Peter and everyone went. The idea I had is that - possibly due to Aslan's intervention or whatever - they were not dead immediately, but maybe lay comatose in a hospital or something, and didn't die in England until they went through the stable door in Narnia.(less)
This book had a lot more plot than the first one, and the plot itself I don't really fault (much). It drew some pretty strong parallels to...moreHokay . . .
This book had a lot more plot than the first one, and the plot itself I don't really fault (much). It drew some pretty strong parallels to Romeo and Juliet, and had, at times, good tension. It went roughly as follows:
Bella: Oh Edward, I'll love you forever! Edward: And I'll love you forever! Except now I don't anymore, and my family's moving away. Don't follow me! I don't want you anymore! Bella: WOE! *Mopes for four months* Well, since I now care even less about staying alive than I did before, I guess I'll act recklessly because I promised Edward I wouldn't. Hey, Jacob, can you help me fix these motorcycles so I can endanger my life? Jacob: I can do better than that - I can bring your life sunshine and meaning! By the way, I, like all other men in the world, am head over heels for you. Fancy that! Bella: Really? How strange, when I'm so plain! Jacob: *Rolls eyes* Right. Aw, darn, I've become a monster. I hate vampires! They kill people, and it's their fault my friends and I are turning into werewolves! Bella: Wow, when I put my life in danger, I hear Edward's voice warning me in my head! Oh sweet hallucinations, do not desert me! *Goes cliff-diving into the ocean* Alice: Hi Bella. I foresaw you leaping off a cliff, and OH NO, ROSALIE TOLD EDWARD THAT AND NOW HE THINKS YOU'RE DEAD! Bella: So? He doesn't love me. He said so. Alice: . . . Um. Right. Well, he's going to kill himself. Bella: OH NO, MY PRECIOUS EDWARD! I COULD NEVER LIVE IN A WORLD WITHOUT HIM! WE MUST GO SAVE HIM! Edward: *Tries to kill himself* Bella: *Arrives just in time* Bad Vampires: Um, humans aren't allowed to know we exist, so you better vamp that girl, or we're gonna kill you all. Bella: Yes! That's just what I wanted anyway! Edward: Nooo! Bella: It's because you don't love me, isn't it? Edward: No, that was a painfully obvious ploy to make you stay here and get on with your life. I was actually heart-wrenchingly miserable for every overwrought gut-twisting soul-shredding unbearable moment I was gone. Bella: Oh yay! Clearly the hallucinations were my subconscious telling me that you cared! Jacob: I kinda still hate vampires, just so you know. But I still like Bel- Edward: Jacob. I am in everlasting debt to you for saving Bella and keeping her clumsy semi-suicidal butt alive for seven months by being her best and almost only friend. Now Bella, you can never see Jacob again. Bella: . . . Edward: Seriously. Bella: . . . But I still get to become a vampire, right? Edward: Not now. Maybe in the next book.
So, plot was had. And I liked the nearly-blank pages to illustrate the months passing in a zombie haze. Probably a plot very similar to this one could have been done in a way that I didn't have so many issues with. The devil, as they say, is in the details. Let's see a few of those now!
1. The Message. This is probably the biggest problem I have with the series so far, and especially this book. I've got issues on every level, most of them pertaining to gender equality or to healthy relationships. Here are a few that show up in this book: - Why are there no female werewolves? - Even if he was just really mad the one time, and is forever after shown as heart-meltingly affectionate, is it really okay that Sam tore half of Emily's face off? It means he hit her, okay? Werewolf or not, that's not a good thing. Maybe if it were explained a little better, I'd be more okay with this bit. - Why the heck can't Charlie cook? He's a grown man. He lived alone for years before Bella showed up. And she cooks, does the dishes, and, when she's bored, cleans the house? All while he watches the game? - I've heard it gets worse in later books, but I definitely see the beginnings of Edward's jealousy of Jacob here. I mean, earlier he was jealous of Mike, and Bella has never shown ANY interest in him. And Edward is still Bossy McBossypants, with a dose of superiority thrown in for good measure. - Edward and Bella get a little bit of an excuse for this because their relationship has the supernatural element, but they are so, so dramatic. At the risk of sounding preachy, is it a good idea to tell teens (or anyone, for that matter) that it's okay to get so obsessed with your partner that you totally ignore all your other friends and, if dumped, know you'll never love again, think of yourself as "damaged goods," and see no reason left to live? And frankly, I found it both melodramatic and pathetic how easily she and Edward each assume, "I wasn't about to live without you." It's melodrama rather than real drama because the lives they're so willing - almost eager - to throw away seem to have no meaning. Not just without each other (though honestly, how healthy would that be anyway?), but no meaning, period. I mean, what does either of them ever do, anyway? What are their interests? Bella reads Wuthering Heights. Edward plays piano and eats cougars. Is that all? No wonder they want to kill themselves. - And finally - what is the actual basis of Bella and Edward's relationship? We have Bella smelling good and Edward being hot, and then we have a lot of tension, but pretty much the only things they actually do together are stare into each other's eyes and say how much they love one another. That's not a relationship. I'm not going to say Bella should have gone with Jacob - not if she didn't feel the chemistry. Sometimes a person seems perfect for you, but you're not feeling the romance, and that sucks. But Bella's relationship with Jacob, even if it just stayed on a friendly level, seems much healthier than the one with Edward. They talk. They smile. They laugh. He doesn't tell her what to do and physically carry her off when she disobeys.
2. The Obvious Factor. In this book, I thought Bella came across as incredibly slow. In fantasy books set in the "real" world, readers have to cut characters some slack in taking awhile to recognize the fantasy elements at first - after all, how many of us would easily accept the existence of vampires? In the first book, I was pleased by how little of that, "Come on, come on, we all know it's a vampire book, just get with the program!" there was. Bella caught on to the vampires pretty easily. But oh MAN, could she not catch onto werewolves. The same freaking legend that told her the Cullens were vampires mentioned that Jacob's people were descended from werewolves - using that word - that were the enemies of vampires. When Bella is attacked by a bad vampire and rescued by a pack of wolves, each as big as a Jeep, her reaction is: "Oh wow, I had no idea wolves got so big!" When Jacob mentions that a small group of teens on the reservation are acting weird, calling themselves "protectors" and patrolling the land, she gets nothing. There is a comical moment when, after Jacob starts acting weird, she goes, "Oh! I get it!" It turns out that what she gets is that Jacob has joined the aforementioned group. Way ahead of you, there, Bella. Even when Jacob hints that their situation parallels that of the Cullens, says he can't tell her exactly what it is, but reminds her of the story he'd told, it takes having a dream wherein Jacob turns into one of the specific wolves she saw before Bella goes, "Whoah! What the heck? Werewolves exist? No way!"
Speaking of things I found stupendously obvious: Edward's ploy. To be fair, I guess that if your partner was actually there telling you, "I don't want you anymore," it would be hard to see it as being meant for your own good. Still, after the number of times that Edward has tried to convince Bella to stay away from him because he's dangerous? It doesn't cross her mind? I wasn't surprised that his feelings were hurt by the ease of her acceptance. But on the other hand, after Bella wonders for the billionth time why she ever believed she was good enough for him to love her, I start to wonder the same. Not that I think he's all that interesting, either . . .
3. The Inconsistency. I didn't see a whole lot of this, but here's a question I had: Why is everyone so confident, based on Bella's being immune to the special gifts of Edward, Aro, and two other Voltari vampires, that she'll be immune to the gift of the super-tracker (and, potentially, any others the Voltari use to find people)? Nothing was said in Twilight about James, the regular tracker, having trouble finding her, and Alice's gift works on Bella just fine - pretty sure Jasper's does, too. I think it would be kind of cool if she was just totally immune to all vampire superpowers, but that's obviously not the deal, so Edward's confidence in their ability to hide her from the super-tracker seems really contrived.
4. The Mary Sue Story. I skimmed this in my review of the last book, I think, but ye gods. Here's a girl who can barely be bothered to speak to anyone who doesn't possess godlike beauty and strength, describes herself repeatedly as "plain," and has such a coordination problem that she's a regular at the ER. Yet somehow, every male who sets eyes on her is entranced. Do they see through to her inner beauty? *Laugh choke gasp* Not exactly. No one ever explains what the deal is there.
So yeeeah. I liked the first one better, funnily enough. I admit that this one had much more of a plot, but it was hard to slog through hundreds of pages of Bella being over-the-top, miserably, blindly, pitifully, pathetically, and very adverbially, unhappy. Jacob, I admit, is pretty neat, but I actually think he'd be too good for Bella even if she did like him, so I'm glad that ship's aimed so solidly at the iceberg. I plan to read the other two books, mostly out of curiosity, so we'll see how that goes.(less)
The only other Discworld books I'd read were the Tiffany Aching sequence - The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith - and I was eager to t...moreThe only other Discworld books I'd read were the Tiffany Aching sequence - The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith - and I was eager to try others. With those books, I found the humor hilarious and the worldbuilding excellent, but Tiffany a little obnoxious, mostly because she seemed too mature for her age, which ranges from nine to thirteen in the books.
A few writing-style trends that I found continuing here: Pratchett can be a tiny bit repetitive, especially on really good details, as if he's proud of them and wants you to see them again. Also, I still think his romance is kind of awkwardly underdone. I do appreciate the understated romance subplots I've come to associate with some modern male English writers (Neil Gaiman does it well, Brian Jacques painfully), but sometimes it seems a little thin. *Now come the spoilers; ye have been warned* Frankly, I wasn't sure I bought Mort and Ysabell getting together. They have the starts-out-tempestuous relationship that goes through various annoyances which are put aside when impending disaster forces them to work together, but when Ysabell says, "I - love him, father. I think," I'm as surprised as anyone. They never had a "moment," not that I noticed. Fiction would have you believe that any two single people of genders appropriate to their inclinations, when forced by Fate to work together in the face of danger, will end up in let's-get-married happily-ever-after lurve. I'm generally a fan of the conceit, but you've got to have some suggestion of feelings before that - feelings that aren't annoyance and frustration. With Mort and Ysabell, we see some camaraderie, but not tons, and not the slightest hint of attraction. Honestly, I thought Keli and Cutwell were better set up.
The setup of Discworld is fantabulous. I will say, though, that just as with the Tiffany Aching books, I feel like some things came conveniently out of nowhere that seemed like they should have been set up. Chiefly I'm thinking of Mort's making it to Keli in time because of "the speed of night." This might have been foreshadowed a little with the talk of Discworld light and its strange qualities, but there wasn't any previous reference to it or to Binky's ability to . . . move faster when night's falling? I'm not even sure I really understand why they were suddenly able to make it in time. I think Pratchett sometimes seems to fudge the magic a little for the plot. Some things of this type he handles well, though. When they take Keli and Cutwell back to Death's house, for example, that was just the way those things ought to be: I didn't think of it long before Mort and wonder at his slowness, but when he did come up with it, it seemed natural and obvious - the "why didn't I think of that?" moment.
AND Death is awesome; the humor is awesome; the world is awesome. This book had more explicit worldbuilding than the Tiffany Aching ones - probably because it's earlier in the series - and I really enjoyed it. Death is a fantastic character, and some of the humor - even throwaway lines - is amazing. I loved when Mort asked Death how he got all those coins, and Death answered, "In pairs."(less)
**spoiler alert** I especially liked the part where they got separated from Mokona . . . and suddenly couldn't understand each other's languages. :) A...more**spoiler alert** I especially liked the part where they got separated from Mokona . . . and suddenly couldn't understand each other's languages. :) Also, the singer-villain and her sea of fanboys was pretty awesome.(less)
This was still decent, but I really like the earlier books a lot and thus was a bit disappointed. Leaf got a lot of screen time, and I find her a less...moreThis was still decent, but I really like the earlier books a lot and thus was a bit disappointed. Leaf got a lot of screen time, and I find her a less-interesting character than Arthur or Suzy even when she (Leaf) isn't spending a whole paragraph calculating the diameter of a circle. I would not have guessed from the rush of the earlier books that Book Five would actually include the equation pi r squared. Really, though, I think that was just part of the main issue I had with this book, which was that Nix puts a hold on the action to describe the world too much. The earlier books have a lot of description, but I think it's handled better. The world he's built is fantastic, and I want to know about it, but I really don't need to know the diameter of a circular building when our point-of-view character has been captured by Lady Friday's henchpeople and is being taken we-don't-know-where.(less)
**spoiler alert** Wacky! I was weirded out by the some-babies-get-two-souls ending, but I like that the story clarifies the passing on of the Chrestom...more**spoiler alert** Wacky! I was weirded out by the some-babies-get-two-souls ending, but I like that the story clarifies the passing on of the Chrestomanci title.(less)
I know virtually nothing about military campaigns - and less about history in general than I'd like - but this book was excellent. It made things clea...moreI know virtually nothing about military campaigns - and less about history in general than I'd like - but this book was excellent. It made things clear without being condescending, and the before/after maps and summaries were great. My interest in the subject is for the purpose of writing fantasy, so I especially appreciated the way each battle profile was chosen to emphasize the importance of one factor, such as "smart leadership" or "underestimating the enemy," that could be generalized to other (read: fictional) battles.(less)
Nix does an excellent job with making sure his characters intelligently use their resources and making the House a formidable and awesome place. The G...moreNix does an excellent job with making sure his characters intelligently use their resources and making the House a formidable and awesome place. The Great Maze is genius.(less)
**spoiler alert** As ever with this series, I enjoyed the mood, setting, and characters of the book. The series has a safe feel, which means lower ten...more**spoiler alert** As ever with this series, I enjoyed the mood, setting, and characters of the book. The series has a safe feel, which means lower tension, but which I probably would have appreciated as a kid. I remain unimpressed by the writing, but it’s nice reading for when you’re trying to relax and don’t want to worry a lot.
I was a bit disappointed by the obviousness of the Mr. Pilgrim twist. It’s almost too obvious to even be obvious – I’d decided several books ago that Mr. Pilgrim couldn’t POSSIBLY be Charlie’s father, as that would be SO obvious. Oops, I was wrong.
I am curious as to whether something else will emerge as an overarching plot now. There’s definitely a sort of “conflict between the descendants of the Red King” thing that’s been going on, but that seems partly resolved now with Asa’s help and the healing of the King. Besides that, I saw the search for Charlie’s father as the main overarching plot. There are certainly some unresolved points – what will happen to Billy Raven, for example, as one hopes he’ll eventually find a real family – and of course, Charlie’s still not done with school. The latter doesn’t seem like a compelling reason because the books don’t focus much on the actual schoolwork, the kids getting older (which they seem to do more slowly than a year per book), or the journey through school – indeed, this book was almost completely devoid of references to Charlie attending class. Most of the action takes place outside of the school – and even when it’s technically inside the school, it’s during breaks and weekends. I don’t know whether this is an open-ended series or whether the author has stated plans to have only a certain number of books, but there isn’t an intuitive number – it’s not as if there’s one book per year. I guess I’ll find out.(less)
**spoiler alert** Well. I read this because I'd read Eragon and found it entertaining and absorbing, if flawed. This book, on the other hand, was emba...more**spoiler alert** Well. I read this because I'd read Eragon and found it entertaining and absorbing, if flawed. This book, on the other hand, was embarrassingly overwritten and cliched, with near-plagiaristic imitation of Star Wars and other fiction (not that Eragon didn't have these things, but I guess the novelty of the things Paolini does okay had worn off by now).
The basic setup of the plot – teenaged boy inducted into ancient order of martial and mental powers to help the remaining few members, now a rebel group, overthrow the evil Empire – is more than a little familiar. The similarities were more blatant in Eragon, but I definitely referred to Oromis as “Yoda” and continued to call the Dragon Riders “the Jedi” when telling my fantasy-fan friends about the book. More than that, specific instances bring to mind other works; while reading, I kept having to inform my friends of developments like “Eragon was just declared an Elf-friend and given a ring.” Also, I have not read Ursula K. LeGuin, but when I described the “ancient language” of this world – a language which channels magic and is spoken by the elves, and in which you cannot lie – my friends were stunned by the similarity to the language of dragons in the Earthsea books. And there is a line – page 665 in the copy I read, but at any rate, it’s when Eragon and Roran are reunited and Roran asks about how his father died. Eragon corrects him, saying “Our father,” and responds to Roran’s look by saying “I have as much right to call him that as you. Look inside yourself, you know it to be true.” SOUND FAMILIAR MUCH?
It saddens me that someone as obviously intelligent and with as much potential as Paolini didn’t, I don’t know, get better editors. Even aside from the fact that someone needs to point out to him that parts of his work are derivative, his writing is bloated with unnecessary adjectives that, among other things, distort the point of view wildly. Who is giving us these descriptions? The story is mostly from Eragon’s point of view, occasionally shifting to Nasuada or Roran, but all of the writing gives me the impression that Paolini sleeps with a thesaurus under his pillow. Obviously a thesaurus can be useful, mostly when you want to avoid repetition of a noun or verb, but does it really add anything to refer to Jeod as “the gray-pated merchant?” Who uses a word like “gray-pated”? And they’re everywhere in this work! To some extent, lush description can be nice for filling out a vivid world, but I found that here it interfered with both point of view and action.
Me: They’re on a boat. There’s going to be a storm. I can tell there’s going to be a storm because the obsidian seas are heaving. My friend: If by “the obsidian seas” you mean “the reader” . . .
I don’t find Eragon himself a compelling character. He seems to have little personality. True, his situation is so dire that it would be frivolous of him to do a lot of stuff for himself, the kind of stuff that could build his character, but I find him simultaneously too responsible and too self-satisfied. Also, it’s frustrating the way he’s ultimately good at everything. I’m more okay with his training in this book than in Eragon, but one has to realize that, no matter how good his teachers have been, he’s still had a grand total of less than two years of training in, say, swordfighting (or magic or WRITING). Think about it: even a random town guard would have trained longer than that. It bothered me a lot for that reason in Eragon when he fought Murtagh so successfully, and in this book it was clear that Eragon lost to the elves only because of his wound and because they are all supernaturally strong and fast – it seems unimportant that said elves will also have trained for DECADES. Eragon also writes a fourteen-page lay in a language he’s basically just learned. And that’s all before he gets miraculously turned into a fake elf. Boy, it’s a good thing I already couldn’t identify with him, because I sure as heck can’t now.
I don’t think any of the elves in this book have even remotely well-developed personalities. Well, that’s unfair; I like Oromis as much as I can like someone who’s clearly memorized the mystical-sage-teacher manual. But Arya is, as she was in the last book, basically an android, making Eragon even harder to identify with because he’s obsessed with her. Vanir, strangely, upset me perhaps most of all, because I was stunned that Paolini had managed to write a bishounen elf that I couldn’t like. It makes sense that Vanir resents Eragon, but the fact that – in the elves’ hyper-polite society – he constantly mouths off about how much humans suck, makes him a pretty transparent antagonist. I was sure for awhile that he had been told to act that way by Oromis as a test, but no. And then – and this infuriated me more than anything else in the entire book – he has an incredibly unsatisfying comeuppance. The only thing I liked about Eragon’s miraculous transformation was that I knew it would mean that he could whomp up on Vanir, and all I wanted at this point was to see one of the irritating characters in this book get owned. (“Take that! And next time, have more realistic motivations!”) But Vanir has, for no apparent reason, decided to be incredibly mature and respectful, and I am cheated of my smackdown. I basically sulked through the rest of the book.
I’ll be honest: I will probably read the other books, because I like to finish what I start and because mocking this one was kind of fun, though reading it was actually pretty painful sometimes. Still, I note here for posterity: it’s not good. If you’re a slow reader, the kind who can’t slog through one of these monsters in a few days like I’ve been doing, I recommend that you don’t bother. (less)
**spoiler alert** Has a straightforward, classic plot - children attempt a journey, aided by magical allies, to find an item that will allow them to c...more**spoiler alert** Has a straightforward, classic plot - children attempt a journey, aided by magical allies, to find an item that will allow them to cast down a villain, while the villain's minions follow them. Many of the minor characters are original and fun or have interesting mythological basis.
All that said . . .
My biggest problem with this book was the utter lack of tension for most of it. The pace picks up at the very end, when suddenly the villain's hounds become actually almost dangerous, but for most of the book: A. The hounds are under magical restraints that prevent them from actually running the children down unless the children literally run from them, and the kids know this, and simply walk when the hounds are in sight. The author does not take the opportunity to make the trailing hounds (which are large and intelligent and can talk and theoretically would like very much to kill the kids) at all creepy. They just keep their distance and don't speak, and the kids aren't afraid of them at all. B. The hounds are never close for more than half a chapter before a cheerful new character appears to befriend the children and distract the hounds away. C. The author periodically assures the reader of how the kids are not really in danger and are not at all scared. This utterly destroyed any semblance of tension for me.
Also, while I recognize that heavy description is part of the book's style, I thought it often went overboard. Sometimes I would notice a piece of description that would have been vivid and strong were it not embedded in a paragraph of dense description (and that in a page of dense description, and that in a book filled with ridiculously dense description).
I also really don't like it when fantasy books end with the protagonist being forced to forget the whole thing. I feel cheated. It's almost as bad as the "it was all a dream!" ending.(less)
I found Tiffany a bit easier to relate to in this book than in The Wee Free Men - she's a little more insecure, and I also think she's a more believab...moreI found Tiffany a bit easier to relate to in this book than in The Wee Free Men - she's a little more insecure, and I also think she's a more believable eleven-year-old than nine-year-old. Wish I'd read this one before Wintersmith for context, but it didn't make too much difference.
I did feel like the Horse was built up a little more than made sense given that it ends up not doing much. But overall, I really liked the book.(less)
Pretty helpful - nice to read a book on writing by someone who has done some really cool stuff, like interviewing Roald Dahl. Also, at the age of twen...morePretty helpful - nice to read a book on writing by someone who has done some really cool stuff, like interviewing Roald Dahl. Also, at the age of twenty-one she co-wrote a book with George R. R. Martin, and she includes many of the actual letters they wrote back and forth to discuss the project - very neat to read.(less)
Very funny and entertaining. A little repetetive at times, and the world and magic system seem sometimes as if Pratchett just made them do whatever wo...moreVery funny and entertaining. A little repetetive at times, and the world and magic system seem sometimes as if Pratchett just made them do whatever worked for the story - I don't feel I understand or could at all predict how they work. Still, the humor was fun, the world was mostly well-built, and the mood was excellent, especially in Fairyland. Good stuff.(less)